One balmy southern night a 45 year-old mom and her 18 year-old daughter were fast asleep in their South Carolina hotel. They were on a mother daughter vacation. Just two ladies ready to bond and have some fun. So, they locked their hotel room door and settled into their separate beds feeling secure and excited for a grand day ahead.
At about three in the morning they both woke up to two men with a knives standing over their beds. No noise, no warning, just awakened by two men who were threatening to kill them if they made any sound. The ladies were just about frozen in terror and they said they’d do anything the men wanted but pleaded for them to not hurt them.
Both women were robbed and raped that night. Luckily, they weren’t killed. A hopeful vacation turned into a nightmare. It turned out that the men had a key for the front door and walked right into the room as quiet as a church-mouse. Either an inside job or a key wasn’t turned into management somewhere along the line and they didn’t change the door lock. I’ll tell you later what the ladies could have done to have helped their plight.
Hotels are away from our homes and unfamiliar to us. Criminals operating at hotels have a fresh crop of “newbies” coming to their familiar areas almost every day. This offers them many criminal opportunities and also lots of experience to hone their skills. However, we don’t have to be paranoid at hotels. Not at all. Utilizing just a few tips can do the trick and keep us secure.
When shopping for hotels look for:
• Solid strong doors that have deadbolts—those locks are best
• Doors with peepholes
• Electronic card access locks are better than keyed locks
• Make sure they have some sort of strong night door latch
When at the hotel:
1. Request a higher floor. Ground floor rooms are more vulnerable to crime because of easier access and also ease of escape. Get a room at least on the second floor however, some experts prefer the fifth floor or higher.
2. Request a room away from fire escapes (criminals have easier access and easier escape routes).
3. Upon arrival, while the bellman is still with you, inspect the room’s hiding places (closets, under the bed, etc.) and check all the locks to make sure they’re operational.
4. Locks: Make sure all windows and sliding doors are secured. Beware of balconies where someone can climb from one to another and enter through an unlocked window or sliding door. If your room has an adjoining door to an adjacent room, check it to see that it is secured with a deadbolt lock.
5. Hotel services: If you’re a woman traveling alone or with small children and it’s available, take advantage of the car valet service, to avoid the parking lot. Feel comfortable in asking the bellman for escorts. Use valet parking if you can afford it.
6. Keep a light or a television on in if you plan to return after dark.
7. Put the Do-Not-Disturb sign on the doorknob even when you are away, this deters room burglars. If this interferes with room cleaning you can make special arrangements to be done at other times.
8. Women traveling alone should use caution when using the breakfast order door-knob hanger card. This card lists your name and number of persons in the room. A smart criminal can knock on the door posing as room service and use your name as a ruse to gain entry.
9. Never allow anyone in your room who appears at your door and says they are hotel staff if you have not requested them. They may say they need to repair something or have some other reason to come inside your room. However, if it has not been planned out in advance or you have not requested it, don’t let them in. In a situation like this, call the front desk and confirm it.
10. At night when you’re settling down and before you go to sleep engage the night latch on the door. This can be a chain attached to the door with the other side of the chain attached to the wall. It gives a small amount of actual security but stronger ones such as ones with a double metal latch instead of a chain give more security. Most importantly though, both of them make noise when someone tries to force them open. Criminals are like cockroaches; they don’t like noise. If the ladies in that South Carolina hotel would have used the night latch on their door the criminals may have not tried to get in. They may have waited for the next guest to use that room or perhaps would have tried some other room that night.
Going on vacation or getaway trips are all about fun and the last thing many of us think about is hotel security. We’re engulfed by thoughts of great weather, fantastic restaurants and the excitement of new experiences. However, every year people on holiday or trips away from home are victims of theft, assault, rape and even murder. So, make sure you utilize some sound security tips and doing so, feel comfortable that you’ve done your due diligence for your loved ones and importantly, yourself.
Steve's a three-time survivor of violence in his youth and was an award winning police officer.
For several years, Steve also did radio political and current event commentary and taught college Criminal Justice. He is the former host of the long running 'The Kovacs Perspective' Internet radio talk show.
Presently, Steve is the owner and Managing Director of one of the oldest martial art schools in Ohio, 'The Mayfield Academy of Self-Defense'.
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